The Fresh & Only’s Tim Cohen Tackles Big Themes with a Compelling Combination of Darkness, Whimsy and Earnestness
Extracted from his experiences, Tim Cohen’s music has long been a conduit to share his fleeting bits of wisdom that he snatches up before they whiz on by him. “I inherit it momentarily, write it down, attach a melody that fits the words in rhythm, and then record it,” he explains. This approach is apparent in his latest effort, Luck Man, an album that exhibits Cohen’s outlook on big subjects – companionship, despair, mortality, existence, death – with a compelling combination of darkness, whimsy and earnestness.
Focusing on an array of existential topics, the album at times sounds like an attempt to fill some philosophical void in Cohen. His outlook leans towards absurdism as he dispenses his thoughts on life’s matters. “Breath and die/It’s all you have to do,” he repeats throughout “Breath and Die,” flippantly dismissing meaning for which so many spend their lives searching. This dark humor is not exclusive to “Breath and Die;” death consumes Cohen throughout Luck Man. “Meat is Murder” finds the songwriter struggling with anxiety-induced insomnia triggered by the thought of animal slaughter. “Shine” reminds us that we only have one chance to die so “get up in the morning and shine.” The breezy psych-rock “John Hughes” pays tribute to the ’80s film king and reflects on loneliness (“I saw the Breakfast Club fell in love with the one idea/How can we act alone even when we are young?”). The track, like many others, goes on to acknowledge that we’ll soon find ourselves buried in the dirt. While Tim bears no relation to Leonard Cohen, casual fans listening to Luck Man might be left wondering.
While death is a recurring subject on Luck Man, there is notably little gloom to be found in the sonics of Cohen’s work. In fact, he approaches such grim topics as discussed in “John Hughes” and “Breath and Die” with a sense of gaiety. In Cohen’s eyes, death is one of the few constants among humankind; he refuses to be fazed by its inevitability. Perhaps it’s this perspective that shapes his carefree, somewhat nihilistic outlook that continues to thread in and out of his work.
Luck Man is not influenced by psychedelic-rock the way Tim Cohen’s previous endeavors have been. The album leans closer to folk, but the shifts and evolutions in his songs are what eschew the predictability that has plagued Cohen’s contemporaries throughout the past decade or so. “Wall About A Window” starts off as a yearning lamentation but morphs halfway through into a Beatles’ “I Should Have Known Better” type of jam. “Irony” begins as a roast of those who use the titular word as a defense mechanism in a ditty you’d expect to hear meta-ironically out of Father John Misty, balancing scathing critique and sincere conviction: “Irony is the last bastion of a fool who only knows the first meaning of the word.” It soon morphs into a wailing pop-rock earworm with which listeners will struggle not to shout along.
Cohen’s latest effort is propelled by his quirky energy and amusing point of view, but it is his playful take on what should be gloomy subject matter that is the real draw of Luck Man.